Isn’t my neighbor’s boots, though he stands on his porch
every dawn and slams them together repeatedly, dry muck
flying like dark sparks. Sometimes it sounds like the woodpecker
that beats its head against my house. Sometimes a drumstick
rapping a snare’s rim, sometimes a gavel demanding order.
He pulls on the boots, double knots the laces, and drives off
to his landscaping job. Sure, there’s days I pillow my ears.
But the sound of his two boots clapping is reassuring—
a sturdy, reliable answer to the news raging from the radio,
relentless as gunfire and wildfire. No, my alarm began long before
my neighbor. Today, it’s twenty-three species declared extinct.
Yesterday, record overdoses and evidence that summers burn
hotter and longer than ever, spring and fall collapsing into one
long winter. Every day, I walk past a fake gravestone some
guerilla installed on the greenway, R.I.P. hand-lettered across
the top, and underneath: We don’t deserve paradise anymore.
I think of my neighbor at his work planting trees, making paths.
Amending and mulching. At the end of the day, the last bed made,
he’s back on his porch, sweat-stained and beat, pushing the muddy
boots off, leaving them at the door, heels up, to harden by morning.
by Eric Nelson
Editor’s Note: This philosophical poem is deeply grounded in practical imagery, providing the reader with an easy doorway into ecological contemplation.
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